4th Annual Walter Caloca Surf Contest in San Miguel Day 1

On Saturday March 22, 2014  young surfers from Mexico and the U.S. gathered in San Miguel, Baja California to participate in the 4th Annual Walter Caloca Surf Contest. Organized by Alfredo Ramirez and United Athletes of the Pacific Ocean (UAPO) with the help of Zach Plopper and WILDCOAST/COSTASALVAJE, the event provided a forum for young surfers to rip 2-4′ waves and celebrate international friendships. Additionally, Day 1, included the SUP and bodyboard divisions.

It was a great day. Day 2 on March 23, is the open event. The photos here are all from Day 1.

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Daniel Dedina with San Miguel local and artist Jaime Noia.

Daniel Dedina with San Miguel local and artist Jaime Noia.

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Afredo Ramirez of UAPO with competitors. The best part of this contest is bringing together surfers from Mexico and the U.S.

Afredo Ramirez of UAPO with competitors. The best part of this contest is bringing together surfers from Mexico and the U.S.

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Girls contestants.

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Daniel Dedina, Jack Stewart and Cameron Bartz from IB.

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Jack Stewart and Cameron Bartz await their final heat.

Jack Stewart and Cameron Bartz await their final heat.

Cameron Bartz.

Cameron Bartz.

Lance Mann

Lance Mann

Paul Stewart.

Paul Stewart.

Daniel Dedina

Daniel Dedina

Dakotah Hooker

Dakotah Hooker

Josh Johnson

Josh Johnson

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Dakotah Hooker.

Dakotah Hooker.

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Paul Stewart.

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Javi Meza

Javi Meza

Daniel Dedina

Daniel Dedina

SUP finalists.

SUP finalists.

Grom finalists.

Grom finalists.

Girls finalists.

Girls finalists.

Bodyboard finalists.

Bodyboard finalists.

Junior finalists.

Junior finalists.

Cameron Bartz, Paul Steward, Lance Mann and Daniel Dedina.

Cameron Bartz, Paul Steward, Lance Mann and Daniel Dedina. It is great to see so many young surfers surfing and making friends south of the border. It is great for them to travel and make lots of friends up and down the coast. That is the true spirit of surfing.

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Historic Surf Weekend in San Miguel

Sean Fowler nails it during the final heat.

“My brother Travis and I were competing in the Vans Pier Classic and lost out on Friday, March 30th,” said Mexican-American ripper Dylan Southworth, who lives in Sayulita, north of Puerto Vallarta. “We saw the swell was on the rise and figured we would head down to Ensenada.”

Dylan and Travis were part of an international crew who found themselves surfing a historic swell at San Miguel in Ensenada on Saturday and Sunday as part of the 2012 2nd Annual Walter Coloca Memorial Open Surf Contest organized by United Athletes of the Pacific Ocean (UAPO) and WiLDCOAST.

Luis from Venezuela during the opening heat.

That wasn’t all that was going on.

“On Friday March 30th, the day before the surf contest we held the first ever forum, La Nueva Ola, on the state of surfing in Baja at CETYS University in Ensenada,” said Alfredo Ramirez of UAPO.

“Scientists, surfers, coastal conservationists, politicians and business owners discussed issues related to coastal access, water quality, the economic value of surf spots and efforts to improve the current situation of the region’s coastline.”

Speakers from Pronatura, Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC), WiLDCOAST, Surf Ens, CETYS University, Locales Surf School and UAPO presented their collective efforts to engage youth in the sport of surfing and reestablish a clean and accessible surfing environment.

“Although limited coastal access and poor water quality is currently limiting economic and recreational opportunities for surfing, there is a new wave in Baja California to improve the situation,” said Zach Plopper of WiLDCOAST.

Alfredo Ramirez of UAPO.

The forum was a good way to launch the Walter Coloca Open over the weekend. More than 60 surfers from Mexico, Venezuela and the U.S. came together to surf in the second year of an event organized by Ramirez.

“The contest is about one ocean, one passion and one family,” he said. “We share the same ocean so it is important to come together and surf together. Waves bring us together across the border. We are all part of a surfing family.”

Saturday was for the junior, school and body board divisions. Venezuelan Derek Gomez ripped his way to both finals in both the age 12-15 and 16-18 divisions. Judges and spectators were amazed by his solid style and explosive surfing.

Travis Southworth.

Equally impressive was Imperial Beach’s Josh Johnson who scored a perfect 10 (the only 10 of the event) in the 12-15 semi-finals with a double barrel ride across the entire cove section of San Miguel. Josh placed second in his division.

Zach Randall, 13, from East Lake Middle School came in third. Second place in the 16-18 division went to Andres Aguirre from Ensenada.

Also making the final were Michael Roccoforte from El Cajon, and Jorge Olvera from Ensenada. Paloma Aguirre of San Diego won the Open Body Board division with Ensenada’s Jose Peralta coming in a close second.

The Open Division of the contest took place on Sunday with an increasing combination of swells. I joined Imperial Beach surfer Sean Fowler and South Mission Beach’s Craig Macias in the rising swell Sunday.

Dylan Southworth

“The swell was the product of a compact, but intense, storm that was located just a few hundred miles off the California coast,” said Kevin Wallis, surf forecaster for Surfline. He said it brought 30-50 knot-plus winds and seas of over 30 feet.

“Because of the storm’s proximity to California, the swell it created rapidly filled in and it was kind of like someone flipped on a light switch, going from small to moderate size surf from a previous swell to very large surf in a matter of 30-60 minutes as the new west swell filled in. Definitely a cool thing to witness.”

Mysto waves north of San Miguel.

When I arrived at San Miguel on Sunday, the surf was in the 3-4’ range. By the time the contest was over the sets were 6-10’.

“This was definitely the latest I can remember seeing a swell of that size and westerly direction, which allowed it to get into many SoCal breaks,” said Wallis.

“Thirty surfers put on an exceptional show of surfing for the spectators and judges,” said Plopper, who helped to sponsor and organize the contest.

Women's finalists.

Dylan Southworth surfed consistently to the final and took home first place. In a close second was Imperial Beach’s Sean Fowler.

Placing third and fourth were Cheyne Willis from Hawaii and Travis Southworth. In the women’s division big-wave surfer Narra Nunez took the win and Everardo Montoya won the longboard division. Both surfers are from Ensenada.

Zach Plopper and Men's Open Finalists.

“The 2012 Walter Caloca contest at San Miguel in Ensenada was one of the best contests. The vibes were great; surf was pumping all weekend, especially with only three other people out,” said Fowler. “Thank you to the locals and all the sponsors for throwing such a great contest.”

“Travis and I we found ourselves in the final with great waves,” said Dylan. “Super stoked to get the title,” said Dylan. “A lot of good competitors entered and everyone was ripping.”

Travis Southworth.

Zach Plopper after the contest was over when the swell started pumping.

That's me in my first or second heat. I stared the semi right after finishing my second heat, competing against the Southworth brothers and Luis from Venezuela. I was super tired and they all ripped! it was an honor to surf with them--all great guys and great surfers!

Surfing’s New Aloha: The 2012 Groundswell Conference

The conference took place at SDSU.

It used to be that surfers didn’t worry about anything except catching the next wave.

For Glen Hening, founder of the Groundswell Society, the 10th Annual Surfing, Arts, Sciences and Issues Conference, was all about surfers moving beyond sefishness and embracing a new spirit of aloha.

Co-hosted and organized by SDSU’s new Center for Surf Research, the event brought together more than 120 surf industry stalwarts, social entrepreneurs and everyday surfers to examine the myriad of ways in which surfers can give back.

“The conference confirmed a whole new trend in surfing that’s not about commerce or competition, but about community,” Hening said. “A university setting, great presentations, honest answers, and a real surf-stoke vibe made SASIC 10 a bit of a milestone.”

For Jess Ponting, director of the Center for Surf Research, the conference marked the beginning of a new era in surfer philanthropy and giving back.

Originally from Australia, Ponting has carried out research on the economic, ecological, and cultural impacts of surfing tourism in the surfing “nirvanas” such as Indonesia.

During his research, he found that the multi-million dollar surf tour industry was a complete contrast to the abject poverty and environmental degradation of the rural communities that populate many third-world surfing destinations.

But in some places that situation is changing. Over the past decade, with the development of organizations such as SurfAid, and the emergence of a more strategic form of surf industry philanthropy, a new culture of giving back has emerged among surfers and the surf industry.

Dave Aabo is the founder of Waves for Development, an organization that works to link surfing and community development in the wave-rich coastal desert of northern Peru.

At the conference, he provided an overview on how to make a strategic request from a surf company to carry out community work.

Aabo, an ex-Peace Corps volunteer who departed for Peru the day after the conference, is slowly bringing a more business-like approach to the complex field of community development.

Other presentations were given by staff from Surfing the Nations, SurfAid, Surfing Magazine, and Surfers for Cetaceans. Pierce Kavanaugh screened his film, Manufacturing Stoke.

In the panel on corporate philanthropy, Jeff Wilson of Quiksilver, PJ Connell of Reef and Derek Sabori of Volcom, all provided an overview of how these companies make an impact in their giving (in full disclosure, WiLDCOAST, the organization that I am Executive Director of, receives support from Quiksilver, Reef and SIMA).

For all three companies it is critical for their staff and surfers to get more involved in the projects they are funding and support.

Giving back has now become another important element for professional surfers as well. Kelly Slater for example launched the Kelly Stater Foundation to facilitate his philanthropy.

Rob Machado, who was interviewed by Ponting in a video presentation, carries out his philanthropic work in San Diego County through the Rob Machado Foundation.

The iconic Cardiff surfer also worked with Reef to create a more sustainable sandal made from recycled tires.

One of the more well-received presentations of the day came from Kevin Whilden, co-founder of Sustainable Surf, who identifies and implements environmental solutions for the surf industry.

In one of its key programs, the start-up organization has helped to collect thousands of pounds of used styrofoam that is then collected, compressed and reused in recycled EPS surfboard blanks.

These blanks produced by Marko foam only cost $5 more than those that are non-recycled, and according to Whelden, “are 10 percent stronger.”

Additionally, Sustainable Surf partnered with the Rip Curl and Waste Busters at the San Francisco Rip Curl Pro to reduce waste by 90%.

It is solutions like these and green and social entrepreneurs such as Whilden, Aabo and the new plethora of the members of surfing’s new “aloha” generation who are changing what has typically been a group of inward-looking athletes, into a community that understands the need to give back.

Jake Stutz, a High Tech High sophomore, who attended the SDSU event, exemplifies this new generation.

Recently returned from a school trip to Nicaragua, Jake and his classmates volunteered for community development projects and caught some great waves.

“It was cool,” he said.

Israel Dedina at the WiLDCOAST table. Thanks to Daniel and Jake Stutz for helping out!

Jeff Knox, Megan from San Diego Coastkeeper and Marco Gonzalez from Coast Law Group.

Zach Plopper and AJ Schneller of WiLDCOAST

Jess Ponting, Director of SDSU's Center for Surf Research and Dave Aabo of Waves for Development.

Panel on Corporate Philanthropy with PJ Connel of Reef, Derek Sabori of Volcom, Jeff Wilson of Quiksilver, and Michael Steward of Sustainable Surf.

Panel on Surfer Driven Non-Profits: Andrea Yoder Clarke of SurfAid, Zach Plopper of WiLDCOAST, Tom Bauer of Surfing the Nations, and Kevin Whilden of Sustainable Surf

Pierce Kavanaugh Director of Manufacturing Stoke.

Surfing Magazine editor and SDSU alum, Taylor Paul talking about engaging pro surfers in giving back.

Tubes and Tapas: Surfing in Northern Spain

Zach Plopping surfing an island wave that only breaks during massive winter swells.

The tapa or pintxo, with the gelatinous and vegetable covering, looked delicious. Since the bartender in this historic district Santander bar was typically rude if not downright hostile, I didn’t bother asking what the ingredients were.

But my first taste caused me to gag and push away my plate as our guide Robert Amasuno, a longtime local surfer said, “You know that gelatin is made from pig’s feet.”

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The last time I was in Santander, on Spain’s stunning northern coast in Cantabria, was the fall of 1983, when I spent a few days surfing on a trip with my little brother Nick and my mother. We had taken the ferry from Plymouth to Santander on our way to Meknes, Morocco, where my dad was working on a United Nations project. I had spent my senior year of high school in Madrid and after our trip to Morocco, I spent a semester at Madrid’s Complutense University.

Back then, the coast around Santander provided endless empty beachbreak waves, warm water and just a few local surfers. The food was excellent. I’ll never forget a dinner of braised rabbit at a rustic country restaurant.

Today northern Spain is a different world. Endless rows of abandoned vacation condos litter the coast (seeing the numerous abandoned construction cranes and vacation villages in Spain is a great way to understand the European and Spanish financial crisis). Surfing is now a big deal with skilled and experienced surfers populating beach cities.

But northern Spain still has a rustic charm that is hard to ignore. The massive Cantabrian range provides a rugged backdrop to the green coast. Hikers enjoy the wildlife and scenery of the rocky shoreline. Picturesque cafes and restaurants serve up mouthwatering seafood.

On this trip I was with Ben McCue and Zach Plopper of WiLDCOAST who had spent a year studying in Santander while undergrads at UCSD. We had  attended the inaugural Global Wave Conference in Biarritz and San Sebastian, and were anxious to sample the world-class Spanish surf.

The second day of the conference took place in San Sebastian at the ultra modernist Kursaal Conference Center designed by Rafael Moneo at the east end of La Zurriola beach. I had previously visited San Sebastian in July during a trip with my two sons and French cousins.

When we arrived the surf was firing. A small crowd rode double overhead offshore waves at the west end of the beach. Bigger bombs to the east went unridden.The minute the conference ended later that day, participants, grabbed boards, stuffed themselves into wetsuits, and paddled out for the evening surf. The surf was well overhead and still offshore.Soon the lineup was populated with surfer-conservationists from South Africa, Spain, France, England, Japan, Portugal, Australia, and the U.S. who shared the plentiful peaks and hooted the best rides.

After our surf, we assembled at the seaside People Café and Lounge on the malecon overlooking La Zurriola to sample pinxtos, jamon serrano, San Miguel beer, and Rioja wine.

It was a great ending to an inspiring conference.

The following day we headed out to Mundaka. Unfortunately the swell had dropped and everyone from northern Spain seemed to have descended on this gorgeous Basque village.

The harbor at Mundaka

We paddled out through the ancient port, caught a couple of waves and then paddled back in.

At a bar overlooking the epic lefthander, considered to be one of the best waves in the world, we ate bocatas de tortilla de patata, and admired the framed photo of the world’s best surfers who had surfed here when Mundaka was an important stop on the ASP Dream Tour.

With south winds still howling and providing offshore conditions (when storms move in from the north from the Atlantic the wind on the north coast of Spain turns offshore for days), we decided to drive west toward Santander.

“We’ll hit up this cool beach we love to surf,” said Ben. “It should be firing.”

About an hour later, we found ourselves winding through a river valley and driving alongside an empty wild beach. In the distance we spotted offshore peaks.

Soon after we were surfing 3-4’ uncrowded A-frames. After our surf we found a nearby café and dug into bowls of pulpo and and calamar.

That evening we found Robert in Santander. Over pinchos and cañas de cerveza he promised a great session at another beach the following morning. “It will be pumping,” he promised.

The following morning I found myself overlooking aqua colored offshore peaks from the cliffs of Dunas de Liencres Natural Park. Pine covered dunes and sandstone cliffs protect the sandy shoreline and a large estuary.

The lineup was empty and there were sandbar peaks up and down the beach.

Out in the water, we all rode hollow overhead waves. A couple of Spanish surfers paddled out, but there were plenty of waves for everyone.

“Most of the time in the winter I surf here by myself,” said Robert.

Back in the carpark after our session, the wind was still offshore and the tide had dropped, shifting the swell down the beach to an insane right peeling off an inside sandbar.

A week later after I was safely home, I received an email from Zach, “Yesterday we scored Rodiles [a left point] – Mundaka’s little, yet hotter, sister. We have been blessed with two weeks of offshore south wind and swell.”

Note: Zach and Ben flew to Bilbao via Paris on Air France. Your best bet is to rent a car and explore the coast, and lodge at small hotels or pensiones in the coastal villages. While Spanish surfers aren’t that friendly, the same advice applies as it does anywhere; never fail to say hello and smile. While nothing is cheap in Europe including Spain, it doesn’t cost anything to be friendly and learn to say, “Hola, buenos dias.”

Tsunami Stories

Tsunami aftermath in Japan.

From my Imperial Beach Patch Southwest Surf Column of March 23rd.

On Friday March 11, I woke up around 4AM and found a message in my phone from my father, “There has been an earthquake in Japan and there is a tsunami warning for the coast of California.”

I immediately turned on my computer and found the devastating news about the largest earthquake ever to hit Japan. The National Weather Service forecast a 2.2-foot tsunami hitting Imperial Beach at approximately 8:30 that morning.

Meanwhile, my English cousin Toby Bray and his girlfriend Polly Stock who had just visited Imperial Beach for my mother’s memorial service heard the news in Britain (it was morning there). Toby, terrified that his parents Martin and Zena who were still here with my dad on California Street, would be washed away by the tsunami, phoned my dad’s house sometime after 2:30 and woke everyone up.

Groggy, Martin and Zena along with my Aunt Liliane who was visiting from Paris, watched the CNN coverage of the disaster in Japan in disbelief, then jumped in Martin’s rental car and headed to the Wal-Mart at the end of Palm Avenue.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Zena, who hails from the fishing village of Looe in Cornwall, England. “So it didn’t hurt to take precautions.”

When local surfer Cheyne Merrill, 15, awoke, and heard the news, “I knew the tsunami was going to be small.  The epicenter was so far away that the energy would decrease when it reached IB.  When I saw the tsunami on television I realized how destructive nature can be.”

At the time the tsunami was to hit in San Diego, I was scheduled to fly out of Lindbergh Field en-route to San Francisco to attend the SF Ocean Film Festival’s screening of two WiLDCOAST films, One River and The Baja Wave Document.

I was a concerned that the airports I was to depart and arrive from were at sea level. Luckily, my WiLDCOAST colleague Paloma Aguirre was on the ground at Fisherman’s Wharf and texted me that the tsunami had barely been noticeable in San Francisco Bay.

According to Ben McCue, “By 8:30 KPBS had posted reporters at beaches around the county. By 9:00 the IB Pier was packed with nervous spectators and news cameras were out in force. When the tsunami finally arrived after 10 only the regulars were left to see it come ashore in what looked like a extra big tidal push.”

“Lifeguards reported that tsunami surges hit the beach throughout the day,” said Imperial Beach Lifeguard Matt Wilson. “Including around 3PM when on duty lifeguards noticed that a group of children who were up to their knees in the water suddenly were engulfed by a mini-tsunami.”

More than 1,500 miles south in Saladita, Mexico, “We watched as the tide came in and out all day,” said Cat Slatinsky, of IB’s Siren Surf Adventures.

Down the coast in Zihuatenejo, giant schools of sardines began swarming the shallow waters of the bays and beaches, a phenomenon that local fishermen had never before witnessed.

Sardines schooling in Acapulco, Mexico on March 11.

Across the Pacific In Tokyo, my sister-in-law Louise Young, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin on a yearlong Fulbright Fellowship with her husband Geoffrey Chambers, and children Anthony and Celia, was at home with Anthony.

“Geoffrey was out at the doctor in Shinjuku when the earthquake hit, and has managed to get on a bus, by some miracle,” wrote Louise in an email to her family and friends four hours after the earthquake hit. “Celia is on the school bus, making slow progress on surface roads to the nearby bus station where she will pick up her bike and come home. All subway service and train service is suspended. The images from Northeast Japan are horrifying.”

Explosion at Fukushita. Luckily authorities are assuring the public that nuclear power plants are "safe."

Alarmed by the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station disaster, the Young-Chambers family is now safely in Baltimore with my wife’s sister Estelle and her husband Marv. They plan to return to Tokyo at the end of the month.

Essentially with the exceptions of Santa Cruz and Crescent City, much of the West Coast got off lucky. However, since much of the California coast and and the Diablo Canyon and San Onofre Nuclear Power Plants are in tsunami and earthquake zones, California citizens need to carefully scrutinize energy and industrial projects placed in the coastal zone. And more importantly we need to make sure their backup generators  work and that government regulators actually monitor their safety instead of allow them to get away with safety violations as in the case of Fukushima.

Diablo Canyon Power Plant in San Luis Obispo C...

Image via Wikipedia

Unless we can safely store spent nuclear fuel (we can’t) or contain the damage from nuclear power plants during an accident (we can’t), we should not build them.

“The fact that this trio of disasters stuck a coastline much like our own, with a booming surf culture, affluent coastal cities and beach towns, and important ocean resources, makes it so much more real,” said IB surfer and my WiLDCOAST colleague Zach Plopper.

My prayers go out to the victims and their families in Japan and hope that the ongoing Fukushima disaster can be contained quickly and with as little harm to Japan and its people as possible. But it doesn’t look that way.

Swell Stories

My IB and Coronado Southwest Surf Column from this week.

January was a great month to be a surfer in San Diego. Lots of consistent medium size surf with excellent conditions. Unfortunately I’ve been out of the water with a bad cold and cough for the past 12 days so I have missed some of the cleaner swells. But there have been lots of reports of great sessions up and down the coast and more swell is on the way this week.

“I have been surfing around Sunset Cliffs during the last swell. It was solid 4-6′ and clean,” said Sean Malbanan. “I also scored P.B. Point, 4-8′, perfect rights. Surfed with Josh Hall, Masi of Masi Surfboards and my Dad, Paul Malabanan. I have been riding a 5’10” Lost Rocket, a 6’2″ Channel Island Flyer and my 9’0″ Stewart.”

Zach Plopper has been back and forth between North County, Imperial Beach and Baja. “I had an epic afternoon at San Miguel with only 7 other surfers in the water and a fun morning at Baja Malibu with my WiLDCOAST co-worker Ben McCue,” Zach recounted. “And of course there were plenty of mornings at Boc’s scattered in between.”

There were plenty of days at the Sloughs to be had. Jeff “Spiderman” Knox, who is currently on the North Shore with Kimball Dodds, said, “The Sloughs was at it’s best for over a week in late January. The usual gang rode super lefts and very good rights for days on end. Kelly Krauss was the stand out on his Sloughs SUP. We watched him from First Notch score left after double overhead left in the middle of the reef we traditional surfers could never have tracked down.”

In addition to catching great waves on his own SUP, Kelly experimented with a, “Ugly beast of a windsurf board that was chipped, dinged and dented but basically seaworthy that I found on the beach. It had been sloppily spray painted black and for a fin someone had jammed a 1 foot by 1 foot square piece of 1 inch thick plywood diagonally into the just-back-of-center keel slot.  I decided to try it out and paddled it prone out through the inside whitewater and then went stand up without too much difficulty. After a few minutes I lined up and caught a smaller wave no one really wanted, maybe waist high.  I would love to be able to say I cruised it all the way to the beach but I as I dropped in I got a bit too ambitious and tried a sort of bottom turn. The thing just rolled on me.  I lost it. Obviously there was no leash, and besides, at maybe 30 pounds, the thing would have torn off a leg.”

On Saturday I gave a talk to the Doheny Longboard Surfing Association on the beach at Doheny State Park. Afterward, I picked up the groms who were participating in the annual Coronado Middle and High School Surf teams Church’s/Trestles Camping Trip. I pulled up to the San Onofre parking lot to see beautiful waves lined up from Church’s to Lowers. What a sight.

The groms relax after a hard day surfing.

“We’ve been going on this surf team trip for ten years. Every year seems better than the last,” said Lorton Mitchell. “That stretch of beach is a real gift and the kids seem to really appreciate the treasure. Lots of the surf community shares the resource, but it is generally a pretty fair attitude in the water. We wached Five Summer Stories near the campfire. I don’t know if it was the movie or the three sessions that day put that put the kids to sleep by 8:30.”

“The weather was insane all day Saturday. Lowers in the morning and Uppers till dark,” reported Sharon “Peachy” Alldredge

Ed Pollitt, who teaches Philosophy at West Chester University in New Jersey traveled to Imperial Beach to visit his aunt Leslie McCollum and catch some California surf. According to Ed, “It was nice to be back in Imperial Beach. Despite the pollution, I caught some fast, sectiony rights in the chest to head high range that were breaking off the south side of the pier. I surfed with a fun and friendly group of locals. One afternoon, I lounged on the beach till late, jumping in for a few quick rights just as the sun went down. The water was ablaze in orange and red. I’ll be back soon.”

Israel catches a good one on the north side.

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